The Future of the City
Boarded-up windows and shuttered stores. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, spring 2020, many of the big cities across the globe were quiet. With workers confined to their homes, and those who could heading far afield, some predicted that this could be the end of the city.
There was even an essay in the US penned called “NYC is dead forever – here’s why”. However, despite the impact of the pandemic on many of those living and investing in the urban hubs, like Toronto, we do not agree that cities are headed for a decline. “Many cities have long histories, much longer histories than national states, something we often forget,” says Saskia Sassen, author of The Global City. “These long histories show us, with great clarity, that cities go through transformations – there are declines and then there are recoveries, there are epochs when cities lose ground and epochs when they gain ground.”
Sassen points out that US cities in the 1960s and 1970s were much poorer than they are today. “The queen of all cities in the US, New York, was officially bankrupt. Much was said about this being the end of cities… but that was wrong, and we saw a subsequent boom and the rise of global cities.”
In fact, by 2020, more than half – a UN estimate of 56% in 2019 – of the world’s population lived in urban centres and more than 80% of global GDP is generated from cities. There is approximately 35 global “megacities” currently and it is predicted that there will be ten new ones by 2030. A “megacity” is defined as having more than 10 million inhabitants.